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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

'Daughters of Wisdom' (Buddhist nuns in rural Tibet)

February 4, 2008

Female empowerment seizes the high ground in Tibet

By Maureen M. Hart mhart@tribune.com
Tribune staff reporter
Chicago Tribune
Feb 1, 2008

MOVIE REVIEW

Documentary filmmaker Bari Pearlman has taken her cameras to a harshly
beautiful corner of rural Tibet, where an unlikely movement toward
female empowerment is taking place.

"Daughters of Wisdom" spends its 68 minutes in the company of the nuns
of the Kala Rongo Monastery. Though a sheltered religious life might not
seem liberating by Western standards, these girls and women were born
into a society that considers their gender a matter of bad luck, where
childbirth mortality is among the highest in the world and where the
normal daily routine is both mind-numbing and back-breaking. The 300
nuns of Kala Rongo (founded in 1990 after a long period of religious
oppression lethally enforced by the Chinese army) are among the first
women in their country to immerse themselves in the study and practices
of Buddhism, trading days full of herding, weaving and churning for
quiet study, religious retreats and leadership opportunities.

Pearlman follows one of the nuns, Tsering Chodron, home to show
first-hand the life she has left behind (yak dung collection is but one
of the tasks), then back to the monastery to experience the residents'
days of ascetism and giggles. When founder Lama Northa Rinpoche returns
and recommends that the women elect eight leaders from among their
number to manage the monastery, their lifestyle choice moves beyond
"escape from" to "control of" their destinies.

As the camera pans their mountainous setting, it's hard not to recall
another nun-centric film, "The Sound of Music"; unlike Maria, though,
the nuns of Kala Rongo don't need to leave their mountain to find their
life's best path.
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